Critics blast de Blasio over police call to help free political ally
By Yoav Gonen and Bruce Golding/NY Post
February 13, 2014 | 2:13amMayor de Blasio’s call to the NYPD about a pal’s arrest is a move that was unheard of in the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations
— and was clearly “a wink and a nod” to cops to let him go, sources told The Post.
Separate sources who worked in the two previous mayoral administrations said they couldn’t imagine either Mike Bloomberg or Rudy Giuliani making a call to an NYPD flack to ask about an arrest of a friend, as de Blasio did Monday for pastor Orlando Findlayter, who was busted for driving without a license and had two outstanding arrest warrants.
The politically connected Findlayter — who helped deliver the black vote for de Blasio last year — was spared from spending the night in jail before his arraignment after de Blasio called NYPD spokeswoman Kim Royster
. NYPD officials insisted the decision to free Findlayter was made by Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lehr, commanding officer of the 67th Precinct, where the scofflaw preacher was booked.
Lehr went to the station house and personally released Findlayter, who is the precinct’s “clergy liaison.”
Even if the administration’s version of events is accurate, de Blasio was pushing the police to act favorably by even making his phone call, a Giuliani source said. “Tell me this doesn’t have a chilling effect [on the NYPD],’’ the source said. “That’s what this was — a wink and a nod.”
De Blasio at a budget press conference Wednesday refused to answer questions about his controversial phone call. But city Comptroller Scott Stringer said de Blasio was asking for trouble in coming to Findlayter’s aid.
“I think the rule is, mayors should not get involved in any way about somebody’s arrest,” Stringer said. “It can only be problematic.”
State GOP Chairman Ed Cox on Wednesday called for an investigation into de Blasio’s “abuse of power.”
“For the mayor of New York City to interfere with law enforcement on behalf of his political allies is ‘telephone justice,’ not American justice,” Cox blasted.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has the authority to open a probe, officials said. A spokesman for Thompson declined to comment.
Findlayter was pulled over at 11:21 Monday night in East Flatbush after he made a left turn in his 2012 Lincoln without signaling. Cops ran a check and found that the preacher had an aggravated suspended license for letting his insurance lapse. He also had two arrest warrants for failing to show up in court after an October arrest at an immigration protest.
Two high-ranking law-enforcement officials called Lehr’s decision to release Findlayter “highly unusual.”
“You’re not supposed to do it that way, particularly when someone has two open warrants,’’ said one. “The person has to be brought to court before he can be released.”
And a former law-enforcement official noted, “I am not aware of any authority the precinct commander has to release someone then and there.”
The ex-official added, “This is arguably a criminal violation. There’s obstruction issues, there’s misconduct issues.
“You’d be taking what is a judicial function and shifting it to a sergeant or a lieutenant at a desk, who’d be deciding what a judge would ordinarily decide,” the official noted. “This is not a gulag — if you’ve got a warrant, you go through the system.”
Meanwhile, the mayor’s political allies — including Public Advocate Letitia James — ducked questions about the issue Wednesday. Brooklyn Councilman and Findlayter pal Jumaane Williams said community leaders deserve special treatment.
“To say that someone shouldn’t call or inquire about an incident is weird,” he said.
“The fact that people call when community leaders are arrested [is] something that occurs — whether it’s the mayor, a council member or another community leader,” he said.
Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez also chimed in, noting, “I believe that if someone was arrested and there was no reason why that should have happened, I think that anyone who can make a call should do it.”